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Meet 15-year-old Indian innovator who uses Science to solve global malnutrition problem

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By Nishtha

At the age of 15 years, Aarushee Nair has interests like any other teenager – she loves to swim, play basketball and lawn tennis. What sets Aarushee apart is her interest in science and how she is using her research work to help the needy and underprivileged.

Addressing pertinent issues

She has designed a Tetra Pak which can hold 350 ml of clean drinking water and has a separate slot to hold Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS). Through a small beak shaped outlet, the ORS can be administered to infants in the rural areas. She received patent for this design from the Government of India in 2013. Her achievements were even documented by the UNICEF.

She is also working on the second version of this Tetra Pak – to address the issue of malnutrition and clean drinking water.

“World Health Organization (WHO) has a pack of vitamins and minerals and when it is mixed with water, it can provide the necessary nutrients to the child. But it is essential that the water used in the packet is safe and clean. Thousands of infants under the age of five die due to dehydration and diarrhoea. Usage of these Tetra Pak by the government authorities can be extremely helpful ,” said Aarushee, a student of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi.

Ensuring health during calamities

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She has also applied for the patent of another design: an eco-friendly and biodegradable toothpaste dispenser for people affected by natural disasters or living in refugee camps.

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“Wars and natural calamities lead to displacement of people in large numbers. The design I am working on will have four nozzles from where the toothpaste will be dispensed. After any natural disaster, there are chances of communicable diseases spreading in the relief camps. We can also take a cue from the dispenser and use it as a prototype to distribute water and other fluids,” explained Nair.

 

Awards and accolades

Her other achievements include a ‘Young Achievers’ Award by the Department of Science and Technology, Haryana government and a ‘Girls in ICT’ award instituted by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Geneva among other accolades.

In June 2015, Nair received the International Young Eco Hero Award by Action for Mature USA. She has been invited to San Francisco in October to accept the award.

Using the power of the visual media

To raise awareness about the deprivation of education among the underprivileged children, Aarushee, has produced a five minute documentary called, ‘Taaj Poshi’. She conceived this idea when she saw a 10 year boy working at a construction site along with his younger siblings.

“The intention of making this documentary is to make people aware about the atrocities these working children face on the field. They carry bricks on their heads and cement bags on their shoulders. I even got the protagonist of my film enrolled in a nearby government school but he was forced to quit as his family moved to a new place. Migration for work is also a deterrent for their education,” said Aarushee.

Added achievements

Apart from her interest in science and innovation, she recently got her name in the Limca Book of Records by solving the mirror cube blind folded in record time of 4 minutes and 40 seconds. She started experimenting with mirror cubes in January this year and became proficient within a span of few months.

Plans for the future

When asked about her future plans, she said her career path has been clear for years now. She wants to become a gynaecologist. She wants to work for mother and child care in rural India and also travel to different parts of the country to make people aware about population control.

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Stephen Hawking believes Technology could end Poverty and Disease, says Artificial Intelligence could be the Worst or Best things for Humanity

Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

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Cosmologist Stephen Hawking delivers a video message during the inauguration of Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 6, 2017. (VOA)

Lisbon, November 7, 2017 : Technology can hopefully reverse some of the harm caused to the planet by industrialization and help end disease and poverty, but artificial intelligence (AI) needs to be controlled, physicist Stephen Hawking said on Monday.

Hawking, a British cosmologist who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease aged 21, said technology could transform every aspect of life but cautioned that artificial intelligence poses new challenges.

He said artificial intelligence and robots are already threatening millions of jobs — but this new revolution could be used to help society and for the good of the world such as alleviating poverty and disease.

“The rise of AI could be the worst or the best thing that has happened for humanity,” Stephen Hawking said via telepresence at opening night of the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon that is attended by about 60,000 people.

“We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management and prepare for its consequences well in advance.”

Hawking’s comments come during an escalating debate about the pro and cons of artificial intelligence, a term used to describe machines with a computer code that learns as it goes.

ALSO READ Humanity’s days are numbered, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc and rocket company SpaceX, has warned that AI is a threat to humankind’s existence.

But Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in a rare interview recently, told the WSJ Magazine that there was nothing to panic about.

Stephen Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

ALSO READ Indian Origin Scientist Part of the team that Developed Nanotechnology-based Test that quickly Detects Zika Virus

“We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be,” said Stephen Hawking, who communicates via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerized voice system.

“You all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big. We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting — if precarious — place to be and you are the pioneers,” he said. (VOA)

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Diseased, Ignored and Suffering Silently : A look into the Health Status of Adivasi Women in Jharkhand

Despite establishment of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in tribal areas, quality healthcare is still a dream for India’s tribal population.

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One of the poorest and most marginalized communities in India, the tribal population continues to fight extreme levels of health deprivation, with women and children being most vulnerable. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 2, 2017 : In his address to the nation on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about his resolve to build a Divya and Bhavya Bharat by creating opportunities for the youth and women and focusing on inclusive development, with safe housing and food security for the poor.

But has Modi ji forgotten about the depleting health status of the people in the south eastern part of the country, particularly the Adivasi populations?

Stemming from a region where people struggle to avail basic necessities how does Modi ji expect the youth to create jobs, when they are not even literate and healthy in the first place?

The health status of Adivasi women and communities in India is in need of special attention. One of the poorest and most marginalized communities in India, the tribal population continues to fight extreme levels of health deprivation, with women and children being most vulnerable.

Health Status of Adivasi Women

Due to rampant poverty, affording fruits and milk for sustenance is an issue affecting the health status of Adivasi women and communities. Additionally, most of the food is served to the male members, who are the bread-earners. As a result, the women have to survive on paani-bhaat (a dish made of stale or leftover rice and water) and saag made from drumstick leaves.

health status of Adivasi women
Health of a man is given more priority than the health of a woman in India’s tribal communities. Wikimedia

With little to no choice to avail other food items, they fail to meet adequate nutritional requirement for their bodies.

According to Archana Kisku, a General Nursing Midwife (GNM) at the Community Health Centre at Dumka district in Jharkhand, even water intake among Adivasi women is lower than what is required which makes them anemic.

“Most of the health centres at the block level in the state do not have blood banks and therefore these women have to be referred somewhere else,” Archana told ANI.

Multiple studies on the maternal health and health status of Adivasi women show poor nutritional status that continues to worsen, along with high rates or morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, tribal states of India record lower utilization of antenatal and postnatal services which can be attributed to illiteracy, monetary reasons, non-availability of services and even deep rooted cultural beliefs.

If you believe these conditions prevail only in Jharkhand, you are wrong. According to a study published in 2016, it was revealed that 80 per cent of the tribal women in Maharashtra’s Melghat area weighed less than 50 kg. ‘Starvation deaths’ continue to affect the health status of Adivasi women, with cases being reported even in advanced states like Kerala.

Thus, it must be realized that malnutrition and anemia are major problems affecting the health status of Adivasi women, irrespective of the area they reside in. However, it must also be noted that the problem is worse in states like Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh.

Health Problems Faced By Adivasi Population

While malnutrition and anemia continue to be the most reported cases, tribal populations are also faced with several endemic infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and diarrhea, resulting in untimely deaths. According to a report published in The Hindu in 2016, the Sahariya tribe of Madhya Pradesh was reported to have the highest rates of tuberculosis in India.

Reasons for Poor Health Status of Adivasi Women

The main factors responsible for deteriorating health conditions of India’s Adivasi population can be attributed to

  • Questionable living conditions
  • ignorance
  • lack of health education and literacy in general
  • absence or inaccessible healthcare facilities

The Adivasis are traditionally hunter-gatherers and depend upon the rich forests for their daily source of nutrients. Shifting to government schemes, like the Public Distribution System (PDS) takes them away from their natural state of being, replacing their diverse dietary food consumption in a forest to more restricted packages provided by the government.

Additionally, displacement from their traditional living conditions in forests puts them in a difficult situation, as the Adivasi’s struggle to survive on more ‘urban’ lands.

A major transition in livelihood affects the health status of Adivasi women and men, which then takes a toll.

Adivasi Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth

In an interview to ANI, Archana said, “Adivasi women don’t eat nutritious food during pregnancy and also don’t take iron pills on a regular basis because it is a myth amongst them that they will have problems at the time of delivery of the child due to the pill”.

Nearly 50 per cent of tribal women are known to have haemoglobin deficiency.

The pregnant women in Jharkhand’s Dumka district are found to have only 8 grams of, while 11-14 grams is found in a normal human body. This creates obstructions in childbirth.

Adivasi households are known to rear pigs and goats which diminishes their calcium requirement. Additionally, the womenfolk indulge in labor work and fetch water from far off distances which often result in miscarriages.

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An Adivasi woman with her child. Wikimedia

Adivasi Women and Anemia

As per figures from the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, 71.5 per cent children between the ages of 6 to 59 months in rural areas of Jharkhand were found to be anemic. Furthermore, it was revealed that 67.3 per cent women within the age bracket 15-49 suffered from anemia.

Shockingly, this figure rose to a staggering 85 per cent in case of Adivasi women.

Nutrition, especially of the women, is of least importance in Adivasi communities, which when combined with poverty, lack of awareness and accessibility, create innumerable problems and negatively affect the health status of Adivasi women.

Anemic women naturally cannot be expected to have healthy children, which is why a negatively spiraling trend can be observed in India’s tribal population’s health.

Adivasi Women and Malnutrition

According to Dr Jugal Kishore, Director of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, malnutrition is a major cause of deaths in India. He observes that one in every three women in India suffer from anemia. The case is worse in Jharkhand where three out of four women are anemic.

As the Adivasi women continue to be anemic, their children are also malnourished.

In a conversation with ANI, State Adviser of the Supreme Court in Jharkhand, Balram revealed the piteous state of pregnant women and nursing mothers who are unable to get adequate nutrition.

He pointed out that these women are unable to receive due benefits of government schemes due to their improper implementation. “Food Safety regulations are being overlooked. In Anganwadi centres there is no proper record maintained of how the health of children suffering from malnutrition is monitored,” he said.

Culture Has A Role To Play Too

Adivasi women continue to depend on midwives to do their deliveries, instead of going to health centres or hospitals. It is also a common belief that consumption of iron or pills would hamper the health status of Adivasi women and their children.

Due to the customs and traditions being passed on over generations, some Adivasi women do not breastfeed their new born after birth, which gravely affects the health of the mother and child alike.

Many such cultural practices also support the proliferation of malnutrition among the Adivasi populations.

State of Public Healthcare Facilities

Despite establishment of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in tribal areas, quality healthcare is still a dream for India’s tribal population.

These PHC are often at a dearth of doctors and trained paremedics. The non-availability of essential drugs, and proper infrastructure further worsen the case.

health status of Adivasi women
A frail looking Adivasi woman with her child. Wikimedia

Lack of knowledge and transportation in Adivasi regions is a huge drawback and travelling on foot to the PHC is a restraint for the tribal population which further hinders quality healthcare delivery.

Illiteracy is also a major factor for absence of good healthcare, as Adivasis’ fail to realize the need for healthcare and rights for care-seeking.

Even though the Adivasi community of India is deep rooted in traditions and superstitions, they have relatively accepted modern medicine in the last few years. But access to good health care continues to be a major issue of concern.

What Is The State Doing Regarding The Health Status Of Adivasi Women?

Jharkhand Welfare Minister Dr Lewis Marandi asserted that the state government is constantly making efforts to eradicate malnutrition and anemia, as per ANI report.

For the same, malnutrition centres have been opened in various districts of Jharkhand and the government is additionally providing supplementary nutritious food to children between the age of 6 to 72 months at meager costs.

Dr Kishore believes these supplementary food packages are also being sent for pregnant women, but they are not reaching the intended targets in rural and Adivasi areas.

The Road Ahead

As noted by the United Nations Children Fund, India has the highest tally of malnourished children in India. In this regard, in their efforts of remove malnutrition, the central government plans to introduce schemes guaranteeing increased amount of nutritional supplements to pregnant women and lactating mothers.

The State government has also been instructed to improve and closely monitor the functioning of PHC. Recently, the state government in Chhatisgarh extended livelihood opportunities to Adivasi women by training them to drive e-rickshaws, which are also expected to serve as ambulances in case of emergencies.

Similar initiative must be taken in Jharkhand and other states with Adivasi populations to bring the tribal communities to the mainstream.

However, what is crucial at the moment is for the government to spread awareness about the health of women, which must be given equal attention as the health of men in the Adivasi communities. At the same time, it is important to break the superstitions operational around the health status of Adivasi women.

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Astronomers discovered Sun-like star that devoured its own planets

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Astronomers discovered Sun-like star that devoured its own planets

New York, Oct 13: Astronomers have discovered that a Sun-like star lurking around 350 light-years away consumed the rocky equivalent of 15 Earths.

Dubbed Kronos after the child-eating Titan of Greek mythology, the star is the clearest and most dramatic case yet of a Sun-like star consuming its own planets, said Semyeong Oh, astrophysicist at Princeton University in New Jersey and lead author of the study.

“Even if our Sun ate the entire inner solar system, it wouldn’t come close to the anomaly we see in this star,” study co-author David Hogg from the Flatiron Institute in New York added.

The research did not begin as a hunt for a planet-eater.

Oh was analysing a catalog of new star data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft for pairs of stars with similar speeds and trajectories.

Such duos are typically twin stars that formed close together from the same ingredients.

The analysis ultimately led to the identification of Kronos and its lesser known brother Krios.

Their official designations are HD 240430 and HD 240429, and they are both about 350 light years from Earth.

The keys to the discovery were first confirming that the widely separated pair are in fact a binary pair, and secondly observing Kronos’ strikingly unusual chemical abundance pattern, Oh explained in a statement released by the Princeton University.

Other co-moving star pairs have had different chemistries, Oh explained, but none as dramatic as Kronos and Krios.

Most stars that are as metal-rich as Kronos “have all the other elements enhanced at a similar level,” she said, “whereas Kronos has volatile elements suppressed, which makes it really weird in the general context of stellar abundance patterns.”

In other words, Kronos had an unusually high level of rock-forming minerals, including magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron, chromium and yttrium, without an equally high level of volatile compounds — those that are most often found in gas form, like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and potassium, the study said. (IANS)